Monday, December 1, 2008

Classic craftsmanship

I was writing a comment about McGuire furniture the other day on Patricia Gray's  
wonderful blog.
She was celebrating the company's 60th anniversary and  its beautifully crafted bamboo and cane furniture, which I've had a set of myself for many years.
It brought to mind a local company, Kozai Designs on West 7th Avenue, in Vancouver, just west of Granville. They specialize in what they call "modern organic" furniture and lighting, including stunning hardwoods from North America
Kozai Designs hardwood table tops1e

Kozai hardwood table in Western Walnut W45 x L101  1e
Take a look at their website to see more (
In this age of mass production, It's great to see a real dedication to classic craftsmanship.
02_Issa Arm Chair_65

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Missoni Possible

So you thought there was a misspelling in the title? No, no, no...I am talking about the possibility of now being able to put in a house some of the latest creations of Rosita Missoni.
We all know the ability of Ottavio and Rosita in blending colors, creating those famous zig-zags, original knitwear and colorful patterns.
What many don't know is that they married in 1953 and founded their Company blending together her family's business of embroidered fabrics in Varese, near Milan and his knitwear's business in Trieste.
The exuberance and work ethic of Rosita
Rosita Missoni
the fantastic creativity of Ottavio (Tai)
and of course the sense of Style they always shared have created a great success.
In 1960 the first dress published on an Italian fashion magazine, in 1976 the first boutique opening in Milan (I was a fan of Missoni from the beginning, I remember the first dress I bought from their collection was designed by Emmanuelle Khan, before they took the whole production in their hands).
Now that their children are also a big part of the Company, Tai has moved to other interesting projects while Rosita has started a line of furniture with her sunny personality, still experimenting with trails of colors, patterns, geometrical shapes and lines.
They will also open "Hotel Missoni" in Kuwait in 2009, a Lifestyle hotel chain and the first Designer Hotel in the Middle-East, with the help of Milanese Interior Designer Matteo Thun, next will be Edinburgh and then Dubai.
A happy family, living, creating, working and constantly entertaining in a splendid house in the country just 1 hour from Milan.
Having three children and unknown (to me) number of grandchildren their house is always festive and of course...full of color!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Fashion & Furniture

Or should I say Furniture & Fashion?
Many big Fashion Designers, after creating for years several new perfumes and accessories, have turned to furniture.
Armani, known for his timeless, elegant, refined clothes has created a few years ago Armani Casa, Versace (la Donatella) who declares being not a minimalist (who knew?) has also a major interest in Interior design; same for Kenzo, the Fendi sisters, Missoni, Ralph Lauren, Byblos and many others.
Donatella Versace's house in Milan and Villa Fontanelle in Moltrasio, on Como Lake, are the epitome of luxury and extravagance, to the point of no return!
(Apparently Villa Fontanelle is close to being bought by a Russian Real Estate mogul for only 33 million Euro...)
Of course for her production, as below, she needs to be much more restrained, but she still cannot resist to put her logo on many objects.

"Turandot" by Armani
"Murillo" Sofa by Mendini, Art Director at Byblos
As you can see they all continue to apply the same aesthetics of fashion to their furniture.
A true fashionista should then wear Rene' Caovilla stilettos, a Versace leopard skirt, a flowered Kenzo blouse and should sit on the "Murillo" sofa while of course sipping a signature drink?
Since David Rockwell, a master of luxury, recently said that a weak dollar will make good taste reappear, even in Dubai, then an Armani sofa would be more appropriate, of course matched by flats and a fabulous suit by the same Maison. In that case a simple glass of Spumante will do.
Incidentally, Rockwell is working on the Andaz Hotel, 75 Wall Street, Manhattan, due to open in April 2009 at 8,000 dollars a night. His philosophy? no extremely expensive materials, no precious stones, no excesses.
Yes, Luxury now adopts a somber tone!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


After I have seen the latest Italian way of creating a wood floor I am dreaming about it.
Laminate or plain Wood floor ...or Multimaterial Parquet?
This would be my first choice from New Mosaics collection by Parquet In:
Perhaps in a Hallway?
This would not be my choice, but beautiful for a contemporary, minimalist apartment:
If I would have a reclaimed "cotto" (terracotta) floor again, like I had in my kitchen a few years ago, through Country Floors, I would stay with my previous choice, just hexagonal cotto tiles, not much in love with the following:
My cotto tiles came from a 18th Century French Monastery and it took me a full year before they became cured and perfect; talking about "Slow Life"...
I am also wondering how a cotto tile and a wood border can be treated at the same time, it does not look easy to clean, wash and wax.I hope someone in Vancouver soon could reproduce what Italian Parquet In is doing, combining marble and wood, semi-precious stones and wood, even gold and wood! like a rich carpet, and if someone is already doing it here I would love to know about it.
In the meantime I'll keep dreaming.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mary Ellen Mark

I recently saw articles on Mary Ellen Mark in a few magazines and another beautiful picture by her was published in a November issue of "The New Yorker".
Every time I see her name I am thrilled since she deeply inspired me and created a new way in my own photography after having taken a few workshops with her in Oaxaca, Mexico and in Vancouver.
She is an extraordinary photographer and an extraordinary person, who made me grow as a photographer and inspired me as a person.
The very first time she saw my portfolio, before assigning me a project, her comment was: "You are not a street photographer but you are able to create atmosphere and you have a good sense of light".
Well, that comment coming from a Master photographer, I was very flattered and, knowing already my shyness in shooting strangers and being in Mexico, a catholic country, I...decided to go to churches where the atmosphere is obviously easy to create and the light of the candles make it even more magic and dramatic.
But another time, in Vancouver, she forced me to go out and take pictures of people on the street "You can do it, just challenge yourself".
So I went, felt very uncomfortable, but I needed to report back to her with my contact sheets the next, after spending time on a sidewalk, watching people watch me... I finally decided to take pictures holding the camera at my waist! I set the camera at a reasonable aperture and I start shooting, just hoping that without even looking in the viewfinder something good would come up, in that simple way I was able to take good spontaneous pictures and the Master was thrilled, my ego boosted!
I have used that technique many times after, at times just a blur, or beheaded people, at times a precious moment captured.
This picture was taken in New York, after a visit to Mary Ellen's Studio and after having bought with her help a 35 mm. lens for my Leica.
Mary Ellen is worth at least a few minutes of your time to just simply go through her biography and the endless list of projects she undertook, all of them daring, provocative, challenging.
Her pictures speak to the heart and I feel privileged to have met her and known her for years.
Her latest book, due in Book stores this November is "Seen Behind the Scenes" (Phaidon Press)and I encourage you all to become familiar with her photography.

Mary Ellen, Thank you for inspiring me

Monday, November 17, 2008

Piero Fornasetti - Milano


I don't remember when for the first time I passed by Piero Fornasetti store in Brera area in Milan (an area I would define luxury bohemian) and stopped to admire the display in the windows but certainly it was many decades ago and many lives ago and I was instantly fascinated by the creativity of this eclectic artist.
There is still not one trip to Milan that does not include a visit to that show-room and now luckily in Vancouver Fornasetti is starting to be known, thanks to Bernstein & Gold in Yaletown.

They carry also the plates with the iconic image of Lina Cavalieri, an Italian opera singer, considered around 1900 "the most beautiful woman on earth".
Above is her portrait by the famous Italian painter Giovanni Boldini, from Ferrara.
I still remember the movie "La donna piu' bella del mondo" with Gina Lollobrigida (la Lollo) impersonating her in the 50's. At that time we had only two big Divas in Italy: la Lollo and Sophia Loren (pronounced more like Lauren). Believe it or not in Italy we also have a lettuce called "Lollo" after the actress. Ah! Italians and food!
Enough digressing...going back to Fornasetti and Vancouver you can also find the full line of objects and furniture, through Bernstein&Gold.  
Aren't we Lucky!?

Monday, November 10, 2008


Tips on How and How Not to Sell in an UnReal Estate Market
EVEN IN VANCOUVER, the market for real estate has cooled off. So what can people do to successfully sell their property?
In a seller’s market you stage your house or condo by presenting it at its best to attract multiple offers. But in a buyer’s market, the competition is more fierce. Potential buyers have time to think and compare. Your house must show more appeal than others at the same price and in the same area, especially if you need to sell fast.
Staging can make all the difference. But “seller beware”: a lot of what passes for home staging is UnReal. I like to introduce you to
UnStaging for an UnReal Estate Market.
Let me tell you some stories from my own experience.
A few years ago, I was looking for a place to buy for over two years. I saw countless cloned houses and condos that had been professionally staged. (By the way, I’m not attacking the home staging or real estate community, a lot of fine people work in this field; I’m just speaking up for higher standards.)
Over and over again I saw the same sort of blah art, the same thoughtless furniture, the same impersonal touches. It’s as if each place, especially in new developments, had been churned out by a cookie-cutter computer program. Here’s a sampling of the UnLogic I saw:
Take one black or brown leather sofa and matching chairs. Add a glass or dark brown wood dining table with four chairs (obviously you’re allowed only two guests if you’re a couple). Throw a few hints of one colour here and there (don’t dare mix two colours). And don’t forget to match the art on the wall with the colour of the throw pillows (art should always match the furnishings, right?)
Bedrooms should be as boring as possible, beige and more beige, maybe a little brown. After all, a bedroom is only for sleeping and snoring (right?)Don’t forget to say you’ve updated the kitchen with a granite countertop and stainless steel appliances. Oh, yes, rent a few bottles of San Pellegrino and place them on the counter. (Believe me, those can be rented, too! And fake children’s art to place on a table How sad is that?)
Voila’, even a characterless, hotel-like leaky condo suite becomes fashionable.
Ironically, though I’m a home staging and designer, I ended up buying a badly staged house myself.  There was the rented tray on the bed with a teapot and two cups as if to signify cozy.  (How many people these days have the time for breakfast in bed?) And, yes, there were the required bottles of San Pellegrino sitting out so lonely on the kitchen counter.
Fortunately I could see through all the fakery and envision how I could turn 926 square feet into a personal, comfortable space, and even accommodate some of the large antique furniture I saved in my downsizing. In an hour’s visit I could mentally place every piece of art and furniture I wanted to bring with me. And so I immediately put in an offer, subject to inspecting and reviewing the strata minutes and by-laws.

Of course, not everyone has the vision of a professional home stager or decorator.

Home staging helps people cut down the stress of selling by taking care of decorating tasks they’re not familiar with or don’t have the time to handle.
Brillante Home Decor approach is to enable my client’s potential buyers to visualize the use of the space by placing ordinary things in unusual ways, with some personality, and always with simplicity in mind.
Every house should also be treated as unique. So I don’t keep an inventory of furniture, accessories and bedding which I convince my clients to rent. Instead, as far as possible, I try to use what’s already in the house by editing, rearranging and minor re-decorating. It saves clients money and it’s more creative and personal.
Home sellers should be treated with respect for their individuality. I say “Do unto others as you would have done to yourself.” And when I buy a house, I want sound construction, an efficiently managed building and an intelligent layout I can make my own, not some fantasy of an Unreal lifestyle.

 Practicality and genuine personality: that’s real.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Taking Pictures or Making Pictures

Last Saturday I was fortunate enough to have been invited for a special event at the Vancouver Art Gallery by my friend Suzanne McMurray. A delicious breakfast was followed by a private guided tour of the Jeff Wall's exhibition.
Even if photography is one of my passions and I have seen Wall's work around the world several times it was interesting to hear more about his art.
The point made by the guide that mostly appealed to me was that in photography we can "take pictures" or "make pictures".
That alone made me think about my own photography.
Obviously my favorite master, Henry Cartier-Bresson, and his theory of the decisive moment (happening when, he said, in a matter of a second the brain, the eye, the heart meet and you then press the shutter) was always followed religiously by me, of course with varying results but been there at the right moment, with the perfect light, allowed me to take a few pictures I consider fairly good.
This one in particular was taken at 1:00 AM in Paris last December. Outside the restaurant were three Camargue horses waiting patiently for the owners while they were having dinner inside. Since my friend Linda Bakk and I were staying in the Marais area, our apartment only three minutes away, we ran home, got our cameras and spent one more hour taking pictures of people walking by and suddenly being aware of the horses.
This was definitely a picture taken.
A picture of that night can be seen on my website Brillante Home Decor under Photography. Those two lovers definitely were not aware of the horses...
The "Vancouver School" of photo-conceptual artists, and mostly Jeff Wall, instead, (and I apologize if my name is in the same context of these Masters, but I needed to explain the point) make pictures, sometimes spending months in constructing the scene, staging any details, creating pictorial art. Wall never intended to be a photojournalist or to document the world, but certainly, as our guide pointed to us he frequently uses "local" to imply "global". His pictures are frequently "made" in BC but they represent the world.
A wonderful exhibition, not large in scale but huge in itself.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

If only...

If only we can change our sofa for special events...
The 1970 "Bocca Marylin" was created by Audrito, the founder of Gruppo 65 in Torino, group of four young architects full of creativity.
The sofa was inspired by a surrealistic portrait by Salvador Dali' of Mae West, with her lips looking like a sofa.  A character was born. Italian Pop Art?
The sofa is produced by Gufram, today part of the Gruppo Poltrona Frau.
Going back to my first sentence,there are other versions of the same sofa:
Pink Lady (fuchsia), Silver Lady, Golden Mouth... so there we have it for every season.

If only we can change sofa etc. etc.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dark Lady

2008 Divano "Dark Lady"

Re-invented from the iconic sofa

1971 Divano "Bocca" as a tribute to Salvador Dali'

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Restaurant in Milan

And today on with the "New"
A famous chef and restaurant owner in Milan, Gualtiero Marchesi, who reinvented cuisine in the 70's and who was the first Italian chef to receive three Michelin stars, has now reinvented the way of setting a table, even possibly changing our way of eating (properly?).

He is designing new cutlery and knives in particular.
Meat set: "Forks have only two prongs to avoid making too many holes in the meat and the knife is very sharp and has an unserrated edge to avoid tearing the fibres".
Spaghetti fork has four very long prongs (not like the Scandinavian three pronged ones, quite short, which are very fashionable but useless for pasta dishes).
Fish knife will not be a knife anymore, but an elongated spoon, because Gualtiero says you don't cut fish, you break the flesh by pressing with the blade and the curved edge will enable you to spoon up the sauce that fish usually comes with.

Process of nutrition and the world of design now go hand in hand.
Marchesi latest creation is the restaurant "Il Marchesino" near La Scala Opera house in Milan and the chairs are upholstered in "rosso Scala" the same red hue of La Scala interior decor.

Slow Food movement was created in Italy and the concept of "calmness" and "serenity" is a very Italian idea since the Rinascimento (Renaissance) perhaps never followed much in the Italian political arena.
But it is true that even centuries later Italians still like to sit at the table, enjoy conversation, savour the food and as Italians do all the time, while eating they talk... about food.
So we eat pasta while describing a risotto, we have fish and we talk about the eggplants we had for lunch yesterday, if we have zucchine (please note the proper spelling) we talk about fish!.

So... old or new? Tradition re-invented maybe.
Modern Classic

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My first Blog

Being my first Blog, better be smart or funny.
Actually nobody knows about my Blog (Oh yes, friends and family, do they count?) so it is good just to test the system and myself.
As you may know from my website I have a passion also for Old, being furniture, books, friends, movies, not always in this order.

Books: For years and years I refused to read a book printed only recently and I leave to your imagination how my friends used to call me when they suggested I read the latest hit to hear from me:"I only read books published at least 50 years ago".

Friends: even if I spend part of the year in Vancouver I maintain a strict relationship with my best Italian friends, many of them met in school, naturally since I keep adding to the list it becomes more and more difficult to manage letters, emails, telephone calls, visits from old and new friends around the world, but I want them all.

Furniture and objects: I love furniture consignment stores and I am a fan of garage sales. I am particularly proud of an exquisite "potiche" bought on a sidewalk for less than $ 50.00 just for its beauty.

At home I found the explanation of the mark on a book "Ceramica nei secoli" (Centuries of Ceramic) given to me by my father when I was about 20 years old (yes, love for antiques or old items runs in the family) and I discovered to my surprise that the potiche was made in France at the end of the XVIII century by a manufacture operating only for about 40 years (Veuve Perrin).

I am very proud of it. Priceless!

Grazie e Arrivederci.
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